The Quest for Silence & Solitude

During a recent visit to Alexandria, Egypt, I had several impressions of city life that left me pondering about the search for silence and solitude. A historic city with deep significance for Christianity as it once was the “thought-centre” for Christianity, it was also the city from where several of the ‘desert fathers’ originated. Athanasius of Alexandria even wrote the biography of one of the most influential hermits, Anthony the Great. The current situation of Egypt, with the recent “Arab Spring” and all the outcomes from it, is clearly one of change and flux, and some of the views of the city of Alexandria are not the most inspiring with many buildings in need of a bit of TLC. My feelings after walking around a very small section of the city where not much different from those early Christians who sensed a need for solitude.

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San Stefano, Alexandria, Egypt

The desert fathers certainly contributed much to the development of the Christian life, and to this day, holding solitude & silence in balance with “life among people” is a challenge for many of us. Michael Quoist states it well:

“I’ve always dreamed of solitude, the hermit’s life, a cabin in the woods or a tiny chalet on the edge of a mountain. I’ve always dreamed of deserts and silence. But I’ve resisted the dream, with the exception of one time when I offered myself the luxury of a retreat with a a hermit: four hours by foot, far from any living creature and a hermit happy to see me. We talked a lot.”

A short “time-out” with family in a beautiful setting last week was a bit of a retreat for me – and yes, the need for silence and solitude is real in our over-loaded life style. How to seek and follow Christ? That is the more important question. Can we do it both in the busy lives of our days, and in the silence and solitude of the desert?

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Devon Valley

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Mont Marie

 

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HOPE for AIDS Annual Letter 2013

Yearly publications are there to show us that another year has passed, so it seems. Another Annual Report for HOPE for AIDS has come of the press and I’m once again in awe at the opportunities I’ve had to be a part of this amazing group of people and projects. A humble privilege and a source of joy, the work being done in each country – every day and every week of the year, is an inspiration to me. I hope as you read the report, that you might be inspired as well.

A glance at HOPE for AIDS numbers for 2013

A glance at HOPE for AIDS numbers for 2013

HOPE for AIDS Annual Letter

If you are inspired and would like to make a contribution to HOPE for AIDS, visit

HOPE for AIDS Master Project

Contributions are tax-deductible and a receipt will be provided.

What the FBI has to do with it…

… and how the last week has brought us many steps closer to moving to South Africa.

General area where we hope to live...courtesy of Google Maps (https://www.google.com/maps/@-34.0865086,18.45499,19620m/data=!3m1!1e3)

General area where we hope to live…courtesy of Google Maps (https://www.google.com/maps/@-34.0865086,18.45499,19620m/data=!3m1!1e3)

Let me guess: the title got your attention and you are now here, reading…I am glad my ruse worked. If you don’t want to hear about the reason for the title, get back to work, but if you’re interested, keep reading.

Last week, our counselor shared with us that she feels we are in a much better place than when we first arrived in the US and that we should be okay to make this big transition to a new country, new relationships, new way of life. We have been waiting to hear back from Burkina Faso as we needed a criminal background check done for the South African visa applications. The day after we met with our counselor, I got an email saying that the background check had been completed (much faster than we expected), and a day later, it was on its way to us via DHL. Wonderful news!

We’ve also been surfing the rental properties online for a place to live and hadn’t really seen anything yet, or the properties needed to be rented before our actual date of arrival in Cape Town. A few days ago, I was briefly checking the same webpage, and saw a rather neat looking place that has used many natural materials – appealing to us. Two friends in South Africa went to check it out for us and took many photos, which we were able to look at yesterday – and they are going ahead to see if we can rent this house. The cool part was that Jen and I were on the same page about the house! Another cool step towards our move!

In our attempt to find decent airplane ticket prices, but not adding so many layovers to our flight, I’ve been worried about prices going up – but this past week, they started to come down quite significantly – just another piece of the logistical puzzle falling into place.

Oh, and what you’ve been waiting for: our FBI Criminal Background Documents arrived in the mail on Friday as well. Slowly but surely, our pile of documents for the visa applications are coming in – and most of it happened this past week after deciding to go ahead and head for South Africa. Yes, we were thinking of heading to South Africa this spring, but I was holding out in going full steam ahead until we had some assurance from our counselor.

What it ultimately comes down to is this: do I trust God completely or only partially? I think it took me stepping out and realizing that God works in our lives regardless of geographic location or cultural obstacles or personal weaknesses. And you’d think I’d have gotten that lesson a long time ago as we’ve lived in different places, travelled a lot, and married cross-culturally. But the reality is that my concern for our family’s health (physical, spiritual, emotional, and relational) had become much stronger over the last several months – and for that, I am grateful. Looking forward with confidence and peace to what lies ahead!

And there you have it – the FBI had something to do with it!   🙂

January 2014 Newsletter

We have received some input about the fact that our previous publishing website (issuu.com) has some inappropriate content as part of their advertising. For this reason, we will return to using our blog to communicate. Feel free to read our newsletters here:

English:  LipamanliJan2014En

German:  LipamanliJan2014DE

 

 

Relational Blessing – The Meaning of Christmas

The “in-between” time of late December has always fascinated me: Christmas has come and gone, and the anticipation of “new beginnings” with the coming year is mounting. With all the activities surrounding Christmas, one wonders quite quickly what the meaning of it all is. Certainly, every year we hear voices calling us to remember the true meaning of Christmas (just as we hustle and bustle about, shopping, preparing massive meals, or travelling to see family or friends). Do I really need to add to those voices? Does it make sense to be “another one” who tries to put a different spin on Christmas? Maybe the answer is a resounding “no”, but since Christmas has already happened, I sense that a little bit of sharing might be okay.

I have learned something new about the meaning of Christmas this year, and would like to call that new learned thing “relational blessing”. We had the tremendous joy of having visitors for Christmas this year: a great family and two single ladies who came to Fada to spend the holiday with us.

Over meals and random free moments, we had great conversations about the little and the big things of life, connecting as human beings during a short period of time that was not clouded by storms of stress and winds of “to-do-lists”. We all drank from the invigorating drink of relationship as we simply had the time available to do so. The building and renewing of relationships happened, because Christmas provided the down-time for it. For boxing day (or St. Steven’s day), a few more “new” friends (from France and Senegal) and a fellow missionary friend who lives here in town joined us for a holiday feast in our home. New and old friends mixed, shared, laughed, and enjoyed the relational blessings of the evening.

Fondue - a great meal for relationship building!

So, that doesn’t sound like anything new, you say? Well, I have to mention that the meaning of relationship is found only in the coming to earth of the God-Man Jesus. Sure, that is the standard Christian line to use – but let me explain further: The ultimate proof of the centrality of relationship is found in the sacrifice of a triune God, sending 1/3 of Himself to earth, so that our relationship with Him would be restored. It all makes sense: relational blessing! There really was no other reason for Jesus to leave the perfect comfort of perfect relationship within the Trinity. If we think the earth needed another good teacher, another good moral example, another friend to the poor, destitute, and marginalized – we are completely right! But did it need to be God-become-Man, walking this cracked earth with us? Couldn’t it be a simple command, spoken by God, to set our messed up relationship with Him straight? No – it could not be so simple, because it would have excluded the relational blessing of God sharing life with humanity. Why did Jesus go eat at the tax-collectors house? Because he was seeking a relationship!

After several days filled with relational blessings, I understand a little bit more about the heart of God and even more the heart of the Trinity. In the end, when all the food is eaten, all the friends have left, and we are once again returning to the routines of our lives, do we call the money we make, the houses we have, the cars we drive, the good health we have…”blessings”, or do we count relationships (with the triune God as well as with fellow members of humanity) as the truest and most meaningful blessing? What is the meaning of Christmas? I’m not sure I could answer that question in completeness, but I feel like a new piece for the answer has been added to my understanding this year…and grateful I am to be relationally blessed!

Wishing you a great start to the New Year, we pray that you will be “relationally blessed” in 2012.

From our family to you and yours!

 

New Virtual Home

On a recent walk in our neighborhood

Jumping into a new format for our webpage – actually making it just a blog as we find ourselves mostly posting pictures on facebook. We hope that this will be useful as a means of sharing with more detail about our life in Burkina Faso. We have now been back in Burkina for almost a year and are enjoying our experiences here. Follow us and see what we are up to!